updated 23 Oct 2011, 21:16
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Mon, Apr 25, 2011
Brunei Times/ANN
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Down's kids can do well too
by Hana Roslan

MINDSETS should be changed in what expectations people might have of children and individuals with Down Syndrome because doing so could make a difference to their future in society.

This was said in an interview with Dr Tan Silven, senior health officer at the Child Development Centre (CDC), who said that in Brunei, the public as well as the mindset of families who have members who possess the genetic condition, extended to only loving them and helping them get through their daily lives as much as possible.

"We should be slightly more 'cruel' and push them to do a bit more because they have bigger potential then we let them express," she said.

"Let them do everything they want to do. Go to school and get a job, be independent. We would like to see more of this at the centre."

The learning abilities of individuals and children with the condition, like other individuals, have a range of Intelligence Quotients (IQ).

"Down Syndrome has a different range of IQs that could be severely affected or they could be near normal,"she said.

"There are individuals with the condition from some parts of the world, who have managed to complete education at university level."

Even though they have a learning disability, it does not mean that they can't learn, she added.

"We should let them learn as much as they can even though how they learn is slightly different from us,"she said.

"They are better at remembering things that you show them, pictures of demonstration, rather than instructions. Although their rate of learning could be slower, they will eventually get there."

Asked whether Brunei could one day have its very own Down Syndrome graduates, she said: "I don't see why not.We have quite a number of children with Down's in mainstream schools and they are fitting in quite well."

However, in order to achieve the level of having our country's very own Down's graduate, family support was very important.

"This kind of support starts as early as possible and currently the Special Education Unit under the Ministry of Education is doing a very good job as they are recruiting more special needs teachers,"she said.

What the children need, she said, was not a fixed curriculum that other children in mainstream schools followed because it was unfair for them.

"What is a better option is that we can adapt our teaching abilities and our curriculum to their own abilities so that they are up to par with other children in the same class as them,"she said.

"This of course needs to be done at their own pace and it is through this method that will work a lot better and reduce a lot of frustration".

According to media reports, in 2009, Katie Apostolides, who has Down Syndrome, graduated from Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, Pennsylvania with an associate degree in science.

This was one of the examples of how Dr Tan came to know of the Down's graduates was through research on the Internet she did the other day that featured her story.

"There have been quite a lot of people I have seen with the condition graduated all over the world. Even if they don't make it to university, a lot of children with Down's actually graduate from vocational training,"she said.

"They are very active and contributing well in society".

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